Sunflower & Triticale Pests

As the growing season winds down, we are wrapping up our summer series with an Insect of the Week doubleheader: one post featuring both sunflower and triticale pests!

Sunflowers are an eye-catching plant with seeds that have numerous uses: as snacks, as birdseed, and as the raw material to produce sunflower oil.

Sunflowers — AAFC

While sunflowers are grown across the Prairie region, the bulk are grown in Manitoba. In fact, almost 90% of Canadian sunflower production took place in Manitoba in 2019. Over the same year, sunflowers were seeded across 28,000 hectares (69,300 acres) in the Prairies, producing 59,000 metric tonnes (65,000 US tons).

Sunflower field — AAFC

Triticale is the first man-made crop species, and was initially produced through the hybridization of wheat and rye to create this new cereal.

cc by 2.0 Jean Weber

Though its origins date back to 19th-century Scotland and Germany, triticale development didn’t begin in Canada until researchers at the University of Manitoba started to breed this cereal crop in 1954. Still grown in the Prairie provinces, triticale is utilized as a food source for both humans and animals. In 2019, triticale was seeded across 42,000 hectares (103,700 acres) across the Prairie region. The resulting harvest produced 63,900 metric tonnes (70,400 US tons).

Triticale field
cc by 2.0 Anita Priks

Several pests target sunflower and triticale alike. Monitoring and scouting protocols as well as economic thresholds (when available) are found in Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management and the Cutworm Pests of Crops on the Canadian Prairies: Identification and Management Field Guide. Additional monitoring protocols exist to control certain pests.

Sunflower Pests

  • Banded sunflower moth
  • Beet cutworm
  • Black cutworm
  • Brown marmorated stink bug
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Dingy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Lygus bugs
  • Painted lady butterfly
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Potato aphid
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Red sunflower seed weevil
  • Sunflower beetle
  • Sunflower bud moth
  • Sunflower maggot
  • Sunflower midge
  • Sunflower moth
  • Sunflower receptacle maggot
  • Sunflower seed maggot
  • Wireworms
Sunflower beetle – Frank Peairs,, cc-by 3.0

Triticale Pests

  • Cereal leaf beetle
  • Darksided cutworm
  • Fall armyworm
  • Fall field cricket
  • Glassy cutworm
  • Grasshoppers
  • Greenbug
  • Pale western cutworm
  • Redbacked cutworm
  • Variegated cutworm
  • Wheat midge
  • Wireworms
Variegated cutworm – James Calisch,, cc-by 3.0

A deep thanks to all who have been reading Insect of the Week 2020! We look forward to publishing a whole new set of posts next season.

Weekly Update


Week 18 and field scouting continues to be critical!

Please access the complete Weekly Update either as a series of Posts for Week 18 (August 8, 2019) OR a downloadable PDF. Be sure to check out the Insect of the Week – the rest of the growing season features doppelgangers to aid in-field scouting!

Questions or problems accessing the contents of this Weekly Update?  Please e-mail either Dr. Meghan Vankosky or Jennifer Otani.  Past “Weekly Updates” can be accessed on our Weekly Update page.

Subscribe to the Blog by following these easy steps!

Weather synopsis

This past week (July 30- August 5, 2019) temperatures were similar to last week (Fig. 1). The warmest temperatures were observed across most of southern SK and eastern AB. 

Figure 1. Average temperature (°C) across the Canadian prairies the past seven days (July 30-August 5, 2019).

Across the prairies, 30-day (July 6- August 5, 2019) average temperatures (Fig. 2) were similar to long term climate normals (Fig. 3). Temperatures were warmest across MB and eastern SK. 

Figure 2. Average temperature (°C) across the Canadian prairies the past 30 days (July 6-August 5, 2019).
Figure 3. Mean temperature difference (°C) from Normal observed across the Canadian prairies for the growing season (July 9-August 5, 2019).  
Image has not been reproduced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada and was retrieved (07Aug2019).  Access the full map at

Growing season temperatures (April 1-August 5, 2019) in the Peace River region, central AB and SK have been 1 °C cooler than average while the remainder of the prairies has been warmer than normal (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. Average temperature (°C) across the Canadian prairies for the growing season (April 1-August 5, 2019).

Similar to last week, this week significant rainfall amounts were reported the parkland region of  SK and AB (Fig. 5). Across the prairies, rainfall amounts for the past 30 days have been highly variable (Fig. 6). Dry conditions continue across southern AB and western SK. 

Figure 5. Cumulative precipitation observed the past seven days across the Canadian prairies (July 30-August 5, 2019).
Figure 6. Cumulative precipitation observed the past 30 days across the Canadian prairies (July 6-August 5, 2019).

Growing season rainfall amounts have been below average across southern regions of AB, and across MB (Fig. 7 and 8). 

Figure 7. Cumulative precipitation observed for the growing season (April 1-August 5, 2019) across the Canadian prairies.
Figure 8. Percent of average precipitation observed across the Canadian prairies for the growing season (April 1-August 6, 2019).  
Image has not been reproduced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada and was retrieved (08Aug2019).  Access the full map at

The growing degree day map (GDD) (Base 5 ºC, April 1-August 5, 2019) is below (Fig. 9):

The growing degree day map (GDD) (Base 10 ºC, April 1-August 5, 2019) is below (Fig. 10):

The lowest temperatures (°C) observed the past seven days ranged from at least 11 down to at least 0 °C in the map below (Fig. 11).

Figure 11. Lowest temperatures (°C) observed across the Canadian prairies the past seven days (to August 6, 2019).  
Image has not been reproduced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada and was retrieved (08Aug2019).  Access the full map at

The highest temperatures (°C) observed the past seven days ranged from at least 21 up to at least 34 °C in the map below (Fig. 12).

Figure 12. Highest temperatures (°C) observed across the Canadian prairies the past seven days (to August 6, 2019).  
Image has not been reproduced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada and was retrieved (08Aug2019).  Access the full map at

The maps above are all produced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Growers can bookmark the AAFC Drought Watch Maps for the growing season.

Bertha armyworm monitoring

Bertha armyworm (Lepidoptera: Mamestra configurata) – Important – Watch for updates from your local provincial monitoring networks who are compiling cumulative pheromone-baited trap interceptions to assess risk levels in Alberta, Saskatchewan (updated 31Jul2019), and Manitoba (locate table on pg 6). Regions in all three prairie provinces are reporting “uncertain” risk based on pheromone-baited unitrap cumulative counts.

SCOUT NOW to confirm in-field larval counts and REMEMBER that LARVAL DENSITIES CAN VARY DRAMATICALLY even between adjacent fields!  Scout to protect @FieldHeroes and avoid economic losses! Use the Field Heroes’ scouting guide for bertha armyworm and be sure to read more at their website!

Biological and monitoring information related to bertha armyworm in field crops is posted by the provinces of ManitobaSaskatchewanAlberta and the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network. Also refer to the bertha armyworm pages within the “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” which is a free downloadable document as both an English-enhanced or French-enhanced version.

Refer to the PPMN Bertha armyworm monitoring protocol for help when performing in-field scouting.  Use the images below (Fig. 1) to help identify egg masses and the economically important larvae in canola.

Figure 1. Stages of bertha armyworm from egg (A), larva (B), pupa (C) to adult (D).
Photos: J. Williams (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).

Now is the time to do in-field scouting for this insect pest.  Review the Insect of the Week which features bertha armyworm and its doppelganger, the clover cutworm!

Predicted grasshopper development

Grasshopper Simulation Model Output – Recent, warmer temperatures have resulted in increased grasshopper developmental rates. Surveys in central SK (last week) indicated that grasshopper populations are primarily in the fifth instar and adult stages and in some areas C. pellucida are very abundant. Based on model runs, approximately 50% of the population should be in the adult stage (24% last week). Based on climate data, 60% of the population would be expected to be in adult stage. Model output indicates that oviposition has begun in southern areas prairies. 

The first map (Fig. 1) indicates the average instar for grasshopper populations across the prairies with most areas have grasshopper populations that are in the 5th and adult stages. The second map (Fig. 2) indicates adult populations are developing across areas between 49 and 52 degrees North. The last map (Fig. 3) provides an overview of where oviposition is predicted to have started. The yellow and red areas show that oviposition has began across southern MB, southeastern SK and southern AB.

Figure 1. Predicted development stages of grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes) populations across the Canadian prairies (as of August 5, 2019). 
Figure 2. Predicted percent of grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes) populations attaining adult stage across the Canadian prairies (as of August 5, 2019). 
Figure 3.  Predicted overview of where oviposition has started (as of August 5, 2019).

The Insect of the Week’s Doppelganger featured GRASSHOPPERS for Week 14!!  Check out the excellent nymph photos to help your in-field scouting!

Biological and monitoring information related to grasshoppers in field crops is posted by Manitoba AgricultureSaskatchewan AgricultureAlberta Agriculture and Forestry, the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.  Also refer to the grasshopper pages within the “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” which is available as a free downloadable document in either an English-enhanced or French-enhanced version.

Lygus in canola

Lygus bugs (Lygus spp.) Reminder – The Insect of the Week’s doppelganger for Wk 15 was lygus bug versus the alfalfa plant bug while Wk 16 featured lygus bug nymphs vs. aphids!  Both posts include tips to to discern the difference between when doing in-field scouting!

The economic threshold for Lygus in canola is applied at late flower and early pod stages.  

Adult L. lineolaris (5-6 mm long) (photo: AAFC-Saskatoon).
Fifth instar lygus bug nymph (3-4 mm long) (photo:  AAFC-Saskatoon).

Damage: Lygus bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts and physically damage the plant by puncturing the tissue and sucking plant juices. The plants also react to the toxic saliva that the insects inject when they feed. Lygus bug infestations can cause alfalfa to have short stem internodes, excessive branching, and small, distorted leaves. They feed on buds and blossoms and cause them to drop. They also puncture seed pods and feed on the developing seeds causing them to turn brown and shrivel.

Scouting tips to keep in mind: Begin monitoring canola when it bolts and continue until seeds within the pods are firm. Since adults can move into canola from alfalfa, check lygus bug numbers in canola when nearby alfalfa crops are cut.

Sample the crop for lygus bugs on a sunny day when the temperature is above 20°C and the crop canopy is dry. With a standard insect net (38 cm diameter), take ten 180° sweeps. Count the number of lygus bugs in the net.

Sampling becomes more representative IF repeated at multiple spots within a field.  For lygus bug monitoring, sampling is most accurate when repeated at a total of 15 spots within the field.  Samples can be taken along or near the field margins. Calculate the cumulative total number of lygus bugs and then consult the sequential sampling chart (Figure C). 

If the total number is below the lower threshold line, no treatment is needed. If the total is below the upper threshold line, take more samples. If the total is on or above the upper threshold line, calculate the average number of lygus bugs per 10-sweep sample and consult the economic threshold table.

Sequential sampling for lygus bugs at late flowering stage in canola.

The economic threshold for lygus bugs in canola covers the end of the flowering (Table 1) and the early pod ripening stages (Table 2). Once the seeds have ripened to yellow or brown, the cost of controlling lygus bugs may exceed the damage they will cause prior to harvest, so insecticide application is not warranted.

Consider the estimated cost of spraying and expected return prior to making a decision to treat a crop. 

Remember that insecticide applications at bud stage in canola have not been proven to result in an economic benefit in production.  The exception to this is in the Peace River region where early, dry springs and unusually high densities of lygus bug adults can occasionally occur at bud stage.  In this situation, high numbers of lygus bugs feeding on moisture-stressed canola at bud stage is suspected to result in delay of flowering so producers in that region must monitor in fields that fail to flower as expected.

Table 1.  Economic thresholds for lygus bugs in canola at late flowering and early pod stages (Wise and Lamb 1998).

1 Canola crop stage estimated using Harper and Berkenkamp 1975).
2 Economic thresholds are based on an assumed loss of 0.1235 bu/ac per lygus bug caught in 10 sweeps (Wise and Lamb. 1998. The Canadian Entomologist. 130: 825-836).

Table 2.  Economic thresholds for lygus bugs in canola at pod stage (Wise and Lamb 1998).

 3 Economic thresholds are based on an assumed loss of 0.0882 bu/ac per lygus bug caught in 10 sweeps (Wise and Lamb. 1998. The Canadian Entomologist. 130: 825-836).

Biological and monitoring information related to Lygus in field crops is posted by the provinces of Manitoba or Alberta fact sheets or the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network’s monitoring protocol.  Also refer to the Lygus pages within the new “Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and management field guide” – both English or French versions are available.

West Nile Virus and Culex tarsalis

West Nile Virus Risk –  Health Canada posts information related to West Nile Virus in Canada.  Health Canada also tracks West Nile Virus through humanmosquitobird and horse surveillance.  Link here to access the most current weekly update (July 27, 2019). The screenshot below was retrieved 09Aug2019 as reference but access that information here.

The following is offered to predict when Culex tarsalis will begin to fly across the Canadian prairies (Fig. 1). Protect yourself by wearing DEET!  This week, regions most advanced in degree-day accumulations for Culex tarsalis, the vector for West Nile Virus, are shown in the map below.  As of July 28, 2019, areas highlighted orange are on the verge of approaching sufficient heat accumulation for mosquitoes to emerge.  Areas highlighted red in the map below should now have C. tarsalis in flight.

Figure 1. Predicted development of Culex tarsalis, across the Canadian prairies (as of August 5, 2019).

Once adults emerge, the following map demonstrates how quickly a Culex tarsalis mosquito carrying WNV can become fully infective (i.e., when it has accumulated 109 base 14.3° degree days) – it’s a matter of days, depending on the region (Figure 2).  For example, as of August 8, 2019, Winnipeg MB was predicted to only take 16-18 days for C. tarsalis to become fully infective.

Provincial Insect Pest Report Links

Provincial entomologists provide insect pest updates throughout the growing season so we link to their most recent information: 

Manitoba‘s Crop Pest Updates for 2019 are posted here. Access Issue #12 posted August 8, 2019, noting continued grasshopper concern, noticeable diamondback moth in some fields and bertha armyworm in an area. There is also a description of the threshold for diamondback moth, larval development, and how to optimally scout for larvae.

Reminder – Saskatchewan‘s Crops Blog Posts includes a segment on “Economic thresholds” by Kaeley Kindrachuk posted in May 2019. Also access the Crop Production News with Issue #6 (featuring pesticide drift information).

•  Reminder – Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Agri-News includes an insect-related item in the July 8, 2019 edition with an important reminder that field scouting in July can lead to a more successful crop.

Crop report links

Crop reports are produced by:

The following crop reports are also available:

Previous Posts

Click to review these earlier 2019 Posts:

2019 Risk and forecast maps – Week 2

Alfalfa weevil – Week 11

Bertha armyworm (predicted development) – Week 12

Cabbage seedpod weevil – Week 11
Cereal aphid manager APP – Week 12
Cereal leaf beetle – Week 9
Crop protection guides – Week 6
Cutworms – Week 5

Diamondback moth – Week 15

Field events – Week 10
Field heroes – Week 6
Flea beetles – Week 5

Grasshoppers – Week 10

Insect scouting chart for Canola – Week 5
Insect scouting chart for Flax – Week 5

Monarch migration – Week 13

Painted lady butterfly – Week 8
Pea leaf weevil – Week 10
Prairie Crop Disease Monitoring Network – Week 11
Preparing grains for market – Week 15

Ticks and Lyme disease – Week 4
Timely IOTW to review – Week 13

Weather Radar – Week 6
Wheat midge – Week 17
Wildfires – Week 8

Wind trajectories – Review Page for list of PDFs for Weeks 1-12

Doppelgangers – good vs. good (ladybeetle larva vs. lacewing larva)

Often life choices involve lesser evils. But in the case of lady beetle larva and lacewing larva, they both contribute to the greater good. But which one do you have? Both are voracious aphid, mite, mealy bug, insect egg and other soft bodied insect hunters. In fact, lady beetle larva can consume hundreds of aphids during their development. Lacewing larva are no slouch in that department either. Another name for them is aphidlion and they can consume up to 200 aphids per week.

Green lacewing larva
cc by 3.0 Whitney Cranshaw
Ladybird beetle larva
cc by 3.0 Frank Peairs

While both have the same general tapered alligator body, there are few main characteristics that will help to tell them apart.

For more information about these species and more tips on telling them apart, see our Insect of the Week page).

The case of the innocuous versus the evil twin: When making pest management decisions, be sure that the suspect is actually a pest. This can be challenge since insects often mimic each other or look very similar. An insect that looks, moves and acts like a pest may in fact be a look-alike or doppelganger. Doppelgangers may be related (e.g. same genus) or may not be related, as in the case of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and viceroys (Limenitis achrippus). Doppelgangers are usually relatively harmless but sometimes the doppelganger is a pest yet their behaviour, lifecycle or hosts may be different.

Correctly identifying a pest enables selection of the most accurate scouting or monitoring protocol. Identification and monitoring enables the application of economic thresholds. It also enables a producer to select and apply the most effective control option(s) including method and timing of application. For the rest of the growing season, the Insect of the Week will feature insect crop pests and their doppelgangers.

Review previously featured insects by visiting the Insect of the Week page.

Insect of the Week – Aphidius wasp

This week’s Insect of the Week is the Aphidius wasp (Aphidius sp.), Most people’s experience with wasps is a painful encounter with a paper wasp, hornet or yellow jacket. However, there are far more beneficial wasps than hurtful. The Aphidius wasp is just one of many such, with female wasps parasitizing up to 350 aphids during their short lifespan. Small but mighty, a large enough population of Aphidius wasps (working alone or together with other cereal aphid predators/parasitoides) can bring down a cereal aphid population to the point where spraying becomes unnecessary. See more information in the new Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada – Identification and Management Field Guide for identification, life cycle and conservation options (download links for field guide available on the Insect of the Week page). 

(c) Tyler Wist, AAFC